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Albums of 6/21/24

The most interesting releases of the week!

Alcest – Les Chants de l’Aurore

Alcest is a blackgaze band. Really they’re the blackgaze band. Les Chants de l’Aurore can be compared to other albums from bands like Deafheaven or Astronoid, but the real comparison is to other Alcest albums such as Ecailles De Lune. Les Chants de l’Aurore was released on Nuclear Blast.

The vocals are beautiful. And while they stand out, the music is written to take advantage of the band’s many strengths. From the beginning of “Komorebi,” the focus on Les Chants de l’Aurore clearly resides in melody more than in metal. Clean vocals harmonize and soar above major chords and shimmering guitars. Alcest have been doing this for a while, so they have their preferred song structure down and know how to dip out and let the music fade from a strong melody to a quiet arpeggiation or other form of noodling and vice versa.

Beyond that, Alcest just write strong melodies. This music drips emotion in a way that most bands inspired by Alcest haven’t managed to capture. The melodies are infectious, both the clean and growling vocals sound natural, and every performer seems to leave everything in the studio. The production is gorgeous as well. Blackgaze is severely not my thing. A new Alcest release is still required listening, and Les Chants de l’Aurore meets the high bar that the band have set for themselves.

Cavalera – Schizophrenia

Cavalera continues to confound. Last year the founding Sepultura brothers re-recorded their early releases Bestial Devastation and Morbid Visions, and they sounded like a neat but forgettable excusion from some thrash metal elders who proved they had some vitality. Now they bring us the next Sepultura release, Schizophrenia. This re-recording, as the previous ones, come from Nuclear Blast. The cover art mimics the cover art for the original, but with more detail and angst, and bears a more modern artistic style than the original. It also looks uncanny and doesn’t clearly justify its existence.

Look, Schizophrenia sounds great. Both the Sepultura album and this release. And if two brothers want to spend their time re-recording music that they love, great for them. I even enjoy listening to this release as they do a good job. Cavalera have made an energized and reckless album, Schizophrenia doesn’t just rehash the past and cash out. But the specter of the past looms large. For giant Sepultura fans, this album will serve as an interesting alternate reality to explore. For people with hang-ups around the original album, here’s a second chance with better production. But you’re not likely to change your mind. I’m not sure how far Cavalera plan to take this course of recreating their old albums, and I’m not entirely sure why such a close copy has value outside of the joy gains by the musicians in the creation process. It’s weird that this exists, but listening to it is a positive experience.

Qaalm – First Light of the Last Dawn

Qaalm released the excellent and absurd Resilience & Despair album in 2022. First Light of the Last Dawn is their follow-up EP on Hypaethral Records. This EP is nowhere near as coherent or dismal as the band’s full-length was, which is reasonable considering the release format. There’s one “real” track here, followed by an instrumental track that’s worth listening to. Physical releases will also contain a cover of Black Sabbath‘s “Heaven and Hell” of all things, a bizarre confluence of sounds which you must hear if you have the chance.

First Light of the Last Dawn, true to its name, sounds a bit more optimistic than, well, the album with “Despair” as half its name. There’s a hint of alternative metal here to round out the genuinely surprising aspects of this release. But that hint quickly dies into the sludgy bottomless pit that Qaalm create so effectively. Their songs are long and feel like journeys, but the EP format means that the title track doesn’t feel as exhausting as Resilience & Despair did. “Ward 81,” the instrumental resolution to the EP, fleshes out the softer side of Qaalm‘s style and provides a satisfying ending. The “Heaven and Hell” cover is a fascinating disaster, and a sometimes-present add-on to an EP is the perfect way to release this track. Qaalm do a great job and blend the original with their own style in a unique, glorious way, but the blending of “dark and intense sludgy outpouring of the dregs of humanity” with “Dio singing about life being a carousel” is just so jarring that I can’t get over this song’s existence. Overall, First Light of the Last Dawn succeeds and is worth listening to for people who enjoyed the band’s full-length debut. Just some very weird decision-making led to a truly unique release.

Grim Colossus – Descent Into Madness

Grim Colossus is a one-man doom metal band. Descent Into Madness is his full-length debut, and you can clearly hear how much this man wanted to make a Candlemass record. The influence is so strong that there are a few spots where I got tripped up listening to this release. It turns out there are worse bands to imitate. Descent Into Madness features large, tasty hooks, memorable choruses, and long tracks that let you sink into their world. While I wish the album was a little shorter, Descent Into Madness leaves me interested by this band and hopeful that he gets signed to a label soon.